Thursday, February 23, 2012

This New Sinéad O’Connor Album is Worth It!

She's still got it! Some lines from my PopMatters review of How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? that I enjoyed writing:

Good Lord, there are moments here as bloodcurdling as anything she’s ever done.

But O’Connor doesn’t settle for [Tori] Amos’s quiet creepiness—she embodies the avenging Spirit, building and building in intensity, multitracking the different timbres of her voice into a caterwaul that combines the best elements of an air raid siren and a slap in the face.

What’s happening is that O’Connor the lyricist is getting better and better at apparent artlessness. Much like John Lennon on Double Fantasy or Lou Reed on New Sensations, O’Connor writes songs that seem like simple conduits for her personality. Her lyrics don’t put on airs and they invite derision. She writes lines that nobody aiming for the Great Irish Songbook would ever allow themselves. So, you know, her Holy Spirit really digs Energizer commercials.

But the more desperately she clings to the promise of eternal bliss, the more poignant her songs become.

Fortunately for Sinéad the songwriter, she’s working with Sinéad the vocalist, who possesses a divine gift: on any given note, she can choose from four or five different voices, all unmistakably Sinéad. Multitudes of multitudes! She moves from whispers to bleats and back again, sometimes within the same syllable.

There’s hardly anything in the way of riffs or solos, nothing to distract from the tumbling cascades of Sinéads.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Escort Album is Worth It!

Their name is Legion.

Escort's Escort is on Escort Records. Can you think of any of any other eponymous albums on eponymous labels? Or is it homonymous? Either way? And why must this trivia question make me start singing "Bad Company"?

Some lines from my PopMatters review that I enjoyed writing:

When Escort does a song called “Cocaine Blues”, not only is it not a blues, it’s not really about cocaine. It’s about careening around the city, wired out of your mind, during a bygone era when cocaine was chic and abundant. Escort wouldn’t be caught dead doing meth—that’d be like playing a banjo solo.

“Makeover” resembles Kylie Minogue engaged in a funky hand jive battle with that sinister steampipe noise from Genesis’s “Tonight Tonight Tonight”.

Comparing these lyrics to Donna Summer’s vibrant and human persona, particularly on Bad Girls, is like reading a Harlequin romance after Anna Karenina.

Escort’s lyrics, one-dimensional caricatures of the disco life, are especially disappointing when compared to their music, which for all its references, sounds layered, assured, modern, and unconstrained by history. Take what’s maybe their best-known song, “All Through the Night”, a.k.a. “that YouTube video where the Muppets sing about freaking.” Lyrically, it’s standard do-it-all-night wish fulfillment, and apparently Balis and Cho haven’t read William Saffire’s open letter to R&B singers, “Sex Is Not a Verb”. But the song’s musical blend of Casio blips, Rick James synth shrieks, flute fills, and rapid-fire funk vocals sounds great. The instruments and voices weave contrapuntal polyrhythms that ebb and flow, creating unique musical structures. And the song does improve immensely, if you imagine Muppets singing it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

This Graffiti6 Album is Sort Of Worth It!

Something for everyone.

UPDATE: If you are wondering whether the Graffiti6 album is good, because maybe you saw "Free" on VH1 or something, I think I underrated it. It's a good album! Check it out.

From my PopMatters review, some lines I enjoyed writing:

“Graffiti6” sounds like the name of Prince’s new girl group, but it’s actually the British musical duo of producer TommyD and ridiculously handsome heartthrob Jamie Scott.

Like many poor saps saddled with perfect bone structure, Scott is really a folk artist in his heart of hearts—the bio says, “Upon hearing [Joni] Mitchell’s Blue at the age of seven,” blah blah blah—and this gives Graffiti6 a Serious Side that pops up every so often.

You want pedigree? TommyD produced the alltime classic “I’m Too Sexy” for Right Said Fred, and a bunch of other stuff; he’s the older, wiser, vaguely mafioso-looking brains of the operation. Scott has led his own heartfelt pop band, the Town, and you no doubt remember his song on the Step Up soundtrack. (OK, I remember it.) He’s everything in Graffiti6 that’s not the brains.

The drumless album closer “Over You” portrays that universal dream we all have of finally getting over someone, then sitting down at the keyboard and pouring out our deepest feelings as a room full of people bursts into tears. “Now I can dance”, Scott whispers.

Occasionally Scott seems not to understand the concept of metaphor, as when he sings on the title song, “I’m seeing colours, flowing through my mind”. I took an informal survey around the office, and it turns out Scott’s condition—“seeing colours in the mind”—isn’t so unusual. Even the blind guy could relate.

 At some point in life, everyone recovers from a broken heart and becomes a psychedelic poet. Graffiti6 show that only the most brilliantly plumed among us can turn such terrible poetry into pretty pop tunes.